by Monica Ross
So the video on today’s post was an interesting one. Here’s a link to it again. I like Awwa1’s comment in the youtube comments section about how empathy isn’t just about relating to the negative feelings of another but the positive feelings as well. But yeah, basically there are these things called mirror neurons that we have that fire in our brains both when we perform an action and when we observe someone else performing that same action. That other person can be a stranger and not even a loved one. Some posit that that is where we get our sense of empathy and understanding from. Pretty intense, huh? I think so too. Here’s another article on Psychology Today on the topic.
Some suggest that autism is the result of mirror neurons not working properly. But the topic of mirror neurons is a controversial one in the scientific field. The reasoning for that is that it's hard to do experiments in humans because it would be too invasive. Another article in Wired points out that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around the concept--to establish for certainty that mirror neurons exist in humans and if so to figure out how the monkey versions compare with them.
Scientists also suggest empathy could exist without them "For starters, we are able to comprehend the intentions behind the actions of other people or animals even if we’ve never performed, or are incapable of performing, their actions ourselves. Many brain damaged patients who can no longer produce speech are still able understand it. There are other patients who have lost the ability to express emotion yet can still understand the emotion of others."
Alternatively, some other scientific explanation could account for our ability to feel or not feel empathy--some other neural connection. And this is where I part from science and define myself as much more of an artist than a scientist. There need be no scientific explanation for empathy in order for me to know that it exists.